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Spirit Hunters Book 4: Shadow of the Oni, by Paul Kidd – review by Fred Patten

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Spirit Hunters. Book 4: Shadow of the Oni, by . Illustrated.
Morrisville, NC, Lulu.com/Perth, Western Australia, Kitsune Press, February 2017, trade paperback $22.31 (310 pages), Kindle $6.99.

Paul Kidd began his Spirit Hunters novels with Book 1: The Way of the Fox in September 2014. He has followed it up with Book 2: The Open Road in May 2016, and Book 3: Tails High in September 2016. Now here is Book 4: Shadow of the Oni. Like the last two books, this has a cover by R. H. Potter and interior art by Voracious Fescue.

The Spirit Hunters series is set in the Sacred Isles, a fantasy world of traditional Japanese mythology roughly in the Heian era, about 900 or 1000 A.D., with all the yōkai (supernatural spirits) of that world: obake, kappa, oni, tengu, and so on. The Spirit Hunters are four freelance ghostbusters who wander throughout this realm, slaying or otherwise exorcising the evil yōkai: Lady Kitsune nō Sura, a fox woman, and her companion Tsunetomo Tonbo, a huge human samurai, who hope to be paid for their services; Asodo Kuno, a young low-ranking human samurai who has joined them to gain a reputation and higher status; and Nezumi nō Chiri, a shy rat-spirit who Sura has invited to join them. Chiri’s two familiars, Daitanishi the air elemental and Bifuuko the rock elemental, accompany them.

Sura and Chiri, and any other animal-people who the quartet meet, are what make these books worth reading by furry fans. They can shift among three forms: human except for animal ears and tail; anthropomorphic, looking human but with an animal head, full fur or feathers, and tail; and fully animal but still able to talk.

While the first three books are basically light adventures, Book 4 is the darkest yet. It begins with “Twelfth Encounter: Shackles of Honour”, which opens with thirteen straight pages of grim battle, slaughter, blood, and death. A decade later, the four Spirit Hunters take refuge from a rainstorm in a long-abandoned shrine:

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Foxhunt!, by Rich Hanes – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Foxhunt!, by Rich Hanes. [2nd edition]
Everett, WA, Arkham Bridge Publishing, January 2014, trade paperback $19.95 (337 pages), Kindle $6.99.

This is the 2nd edition. The first edition was published by Arkham Bridge Publishing in June 2009 with the same cover illustration by Minna Sundberg. I don’t know how the two editions may differ.

This is furry space opera, the first novel in the Wildstar Universe of genetically-engineered human-like animals. (According to Amazon, Hanes only has one other Wildstar Universe work so far, and it’s just a 15-page short story, “Duel of Honor: The Way of the Wolf Warrior”, published in April 2015. Hanes has asked for comments on his works-in-progress on the Furry Writers’ Group forum, although he is not a member.)

The interstellar peoples of the galaxy are all modified Earth mammals based upon dogs, foxes, raccoons, wolves, and more, although humans do exist. And the animals don’t like each other. Interstellar warfare is strictly regulated through a Mercenary Command, and restricted to small mercenary companies rather than large national armies. Captain Sebastian Valentino, a humanoid fox, is the leader of the Star Rangers, the most successful mercenary company in the galaxy; 300+ mostly canids such as his Senior Lieutenant Corey Delzano, a jackal, and Junior Lieutenant Patricia Darling, a painted dog. The Star Rangers usually are hired by the government of Valentino’s own Star Alliance, and their target is usually the Alliance’s traditional rival, the Canis Dominion.

All this is background that the reader will pick up in the first thirty or forty pages. The story is that Captain Sebastian Valentino is having an extremely bad day. Or bad week. Or bad months. First, his Assistant Captain and best friend Adrian Miller is killed in a botched raid that Sebastian blames himself for. Second, Adrian’s extremely formal Rite of Passage (funeral) is also botched, which Sebastian (who is having a brief nervous breakdown) also blames himself for. Sebastian’s new Assistant Captain, Corey Delzano, talks him out of it, incidentally giving the reader a smooth background course in Volpa history, language, and religion.

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Payu’s Journey, by R. Lawson Gamble – book review by Fred Patten

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Payu’s Journey, by R. Lawson Gamble. Map.
Los Alamos, CA, Rich Gamble Associates, November 2016, trade paperback $19.98 ([4 +] 91 pages), Kindle $2.99)

This is an oversized 8½” x 11” All Ages book, which means that it is written for Young Adults but will be of interest to adults. As the cover by Krista Lynn shows, it is set in Australia and features Australian animals – and a human baby.

“Payu wandered through softly falling darkness across the barren desert emptiness, her heart choked with grief. Every step brought a jarring reminder from her milk-swollen teats.

Payu was a dingo, the wide land she traveled Australia’s Great Sandy Desert where the sparse vegetation sent long roots deep into the cracked earth in search of any scant moisture, where small patches of hardy bunch grass clung to crumbly soil surfaces. Here and there a desert pea or acacia shrub cast a long spindly shadow.” (p. 1)

Payu’s mate has been killed at their den by humans while she was out hunting, and her pups stolen. Wandering grief-filled through Australia’s northwest, she comes across two human campers, a husband and wife, and steals their infant.

“Payu watched the little one feed and considered her situation. Somehow she had made the decision to keep this tiny human. Yet in the hostile environment of the desert it could not survive without more support. She could not hunt for food and at the same time protect a hairless, defenseless pup. Not without a mate or the support of a pack.” (p. 4)

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Love Match, by Kyell Gold – book review by Fred Patten

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Love Match, by Kyell Gold. Illustrated by Rukis.
Dallas, TX, FurPlanet Productions, January 2017, trade paperback $19.95 (378 pages), e-books $9.99.

Kyell Gold is arguably the best author in furry fandom. He has won many literary awards inside and outside the fandom. Even those who do not like adult explicit writing have been won over by the high quality of his fiction.

Many of his books are set in what is loosely called his Forester University world. The best-known are the five “Dev and Lee” novels, chronicling the meeting of Devlin Miski, tiger football star, and Lee Farrel, fox gay activist, during their senior year at Forester U.; their becoming homosexual lovers, at first secretly and then openly; and their graduation from college and their first year out. Dev becomes a professional football player and Lee becomes a professional football talent scout to stay with him. Readers of the five novels became immersed in the details of professional football as Dev and Lee firmed up their personal relationship.

Now Kyell Gold has started a new series, projected at three novels. It is superficially similar, except that the sport featured is tennis, not football; and the main characters are, at the beginning, too young to have a sexual orientation. There are references to the Dev and Lee books.

Love Match is narrated by Rochi N’Guwe, a black-backed jackal from the African nation of Lunda who is brought to America the Union of the States with his mother on a scholarship from the Palm Gables Tennis Center. Rochi is immediately nicknamed Rocky by the other students, including Marquize, a cheetah from Madiyah who becomes his best friend. The Palm Gables Center, a leading tennis institution, has scoured the world for promising young players, and has brought Rocky and his mother to the States when he is only 14. (Probably. Lunda is casual about recording births.)

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Swift the Cat-Human, by Angelo Bowles – book review by Fred Patten

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Swift the Cat-Human, by Angelo Bowles. Illustrated by Charlene Bowles.
Donna, TX, VAO Publishing, April 2013, trade paperback $13.99 (206 [+ 26] pages)

VAO Publishing, “A Small Press for the Río Grande Valley” in Donna, Texas, near the mouth of the Rio Grande, specializes in books for and about the Tex/Mex border region; from poetry by South Texans to ¡Arriba Baseball! A Collection of Latino/a Baseball Fiction. Swift the Cat-Human, an omnibus collection of the three books in this series, seems like an unusual juvenile volume for them, but Angelo Bowles lives in Donna. It’s still unusual: he was a 10-year-old 5th-grader in 2011 when he wrote Book 1.

If Swift the Cat-Human hasn’t been “tidied up” by some adult, then I’m jealous. I couldn’t write nearly this well when I was 10 years old. This is an excellent children’s novel in three parts for young furry fans or to introduce pre-teens to anthropomorphics.

Swift is a housecat belonging to Dr. Gonzalo Gonzales. Dr. Gonzales drops a test tube of an experimental virus on the floor, Swift licks it:

“And then the transformation started.

My tail got longer, my back legs got a little skinnier and started stretching, and my front legs seemed to be growing, too. My paws began to lose their pads, and I started to grow opposable thumbs! What good are opposable thumbs, anyway? And five fingers? What’s up with that?” (p. 2)

The transformation is simplistic, but this is a kids’ novel with comic-book science.

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Fred Patten’s Five Fortunes – book review by Greyflank.

by Patch O'Furr

Guest review submitted by Bill Kieffer, AKA Grayflank (author of The Goat: Building a Perfect Victim.)  Guests are invited to submit articles to: patch.ofurr(at)gmail.com.

Fred Patten’s Five Fortunes (FurPlanet, 2014, $19.95) is a collection of five novellas from some of the best writers in the G-rated Furry Fandom.

  • Chosen People by Phil Geusz
  • Huntress by Renee Carter Hall
  • Going Concerns by Watts Martin
  • When a Cat Loves a Dog by Mary E. Lowd
  • Piece of Mind by Bernard Doove

I am not sure how well the theme of “fortune” applies to the five works, so on that level the collection doesn’t feel all that well tied together, but then with five long works it’s not a heavy criticism. It’s not like there’s a lot of “destiny” fans out there. Each story approaches the nugget of self-determination from a different vector from being mindful of doing the right thing (Geusz) to the finding themselves (Hall) to finding a way to survive the week (Martin) or one’s condition (Doove).

It’s a furry sampler of longer works; perfect for people who don’t always like short stories because the story’s over just as they get to know a character. If, somehow, you don’t know these writers or their universes, then this is a good place to start learning.

CHOSEN PEOPLE by Phil Guesz

The cover story.

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The Relics of Thiala, by Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus – book review by Fred Patten

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

The Relics of Thiala, by Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, February 2017, trade paperback $15.99 (190 [+ 10] pages), Kindle $4.99.

Beryll & Osiris Brackhaus, two retirees “in the very heart of Germany” according to their website “The Adventure of Romance”, have already written five other books, four in English and one in German. The two Smilodon Pride novels, Softpaw and Sunchaser, feature werecats, werewolves, and vampires, although they all spend most of the time passing as humans.

Now with the Packmasters space opera series, more obvious furries are featured in an unusual premise.

“Twenty years ago, the evil Packmasters used their genetically engineered bestiae in an attempt to seize control of the galaxy. The Core Worlders wiped them out, scorched their planets and kept the few surviving bestiae as trophies.” (blurb)

Really? The protagonists of The Relics of Thiala are Cat, Ferret, Bear, and Wolf, four rare bestiae — anthropomorphic animals — who had been kept as pampered pets or arena gladiators by the human elite. They are “liberated” by a human girl, Ana, to form a new pack. Ana has become aware that the reality she sees does not match “what everyone knows” about the Packmaster-Core Worlds war. The victors write the history books, and from what Ana can see, the Core World masses (not the rulers) might have been better off if the Packmasters had won. Ana – a mysterious adopted orphan who may be a Packlander child – runs away to steal three bestiae pets and one savage arena warrior to form a new pack, and go in search of what really happened to the Packmasters – and what the Packmasters really were (and Ana is).

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Beast of War, by Mina S. Kitsune – book review by Fred Patten

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Beast of War, by Mina S. Kitsune. Illustrated by Sal Hernandez.
Ames, IA, Light Beasts, LLC, July 2015, trade paperback $8.50 (197 pages), Kindle $4.00.

The big annoyance with Beast of War is that it is written from the viewpoint of a teen airhead of the future. Melissa Rin Brick, a college student in Atlanta, would rather attend fan conventions, dances, and parties cosplaying as “Cute Kitsune” than study. She lives far enough in the future that bullets (from the context, bullet trains) cross North America in a couple of hours from one city to another. There are AI-controlled cars. Apparently the ozone layer has been destroyed, and a Life Shell over the cities protects people from ordinary radiation.

“‘Scientists say that everyone should stay indoors during tomorrow’s solar eclipse. The current disruptions in the sun will cause serious harm to those outside. A warning is being issued: high risk of third-degree burns or stroke. They also remind you not to look directly at the sun during this event, even with the Life Shell and the Moon both blocking a majority of the harmful rays.’

Oh, blah blah. Everything that happens has to make people worry. Like you could really get burned while the Life Shell protects us from space.” (p. 6)

Mel, who has been partying at a convention while she should be in school, is met by her friend Jill:

“‘Right, but I figured you didn’t know about the warning to stay indoors today, so I was going to take you to a shelter. Class was cancelled.’

‘What, over that solar stuff? Come on. Scientists always have a bug about something, from earthquakes to global warming to a lot of snow,’

‘Yes, and thanks to global warming, the entire Midwest became an inland sea for thirty years!’” (p. 8)

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The Guardian Herd: Windborn, by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez – book review by Fred Patten

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

The Guardian Herd: Windborn, by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez. Illustrated by David McClellan; maps.
NYC, HarperCollinsPublishers/Harper, September 2016, hardcover $16.99 ([xvii +] 340 [+ 3] pages), Kindle $9.99.

When we last left the flying horses of Anok, Starfire had finally united the dissident pegasi of the five separate Herds just in time to meet his two opponents’ Black Army and Ice Warriors, both under the command of Nightwind the Destroyer, the immortal, evil stallion from 400 years ago, for a sixty-page battle climax. As this fourth Guardian Herd novel, Windborn, begins, Star seems to have defeated all his enemies. He has integrated the former Black Army into his United Army. But Star is temporarily separated from his United Army, and when he returns, he finds that his pegasi have been captured by Nightwind and have disappeared.

While looking for them, he meets his deadly enemy, Frostfire, the former commander of the Black Army. Nightwind has discarded Frostfire as a loser and taken Petalcloud and her Ice Warriors to be his troops. Nightwing has vanished along with Star’s herd plus Frostfire’s mate, Larksong, and their colt. As both Star and Frostfire have to find Nightwing and the missing pegasi, they reluctantly agree to search together.

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Slave Trade, by comidacomida – book review by Fred Patten

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

51sViU4EeIL._SX260_Slave Trade,, by comidacomida. Illustrated by SpottyJaguar.
Birmingham, AL, Two-Lips Press, January 2017, hardcover $29.99 (466 pages), Kindle $9.99.

The first sight of the telephone-sized hardcover edition of this book is stunning. It’s a huge 8½ x 11 x 1-inch tome that’s almost impossible to hold open without using both hands, and so heavy (over 3 pounds) that it’s tiresome to hold it without resting it on a table or your lap. Slave Trade seems designed mostly for Kindle sales, although each 8½ x 11” page takes two pages to fit onto a Kindle reader. Amazon says that the Kindle edition is 912 pages.

Slave Trade is a furry erotic adventure-fantasy (although there is no rating) set in a Medieval/Renaissance-like world that is not quite funny-animal. There are six main mammal kingdoms; three for anthro animals with plantigrade (flat) legs like bears, rodents, and primates – Tenvier, Larana, and Pross — and three for those with digitigrade (walking on toes) legs; canines, felines, ungulates — Diermyna, Meisenyl, and Vensii. Some practice slavery; others don’t. Usually the characters act so human that they might as well be funny animals; then someone does something that could only be done with an animal’s nature.

“The porcupine [Gaius, a tanner] reached back behind himself to snap a quill free; he then used it to pin up a loose section of leather on the harness.” (p. 84)

Most of this takes place on the vast estates of Lord Hector Desanti, a white Stag nobleman from Vensii now residing in Pross. The main character is Sidney, a young slave (Fox) on Lord Hector’s estates. Sidney hero-worships Lord Hector from afar; he’s like a god to Sidney. So he’s stunned when Lord Hector not only notices him, but gives him personal attention.

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